While the term "grass snake" usually references a non-venomous, water-loving species, predominantly found in western Europe, the United States also boasts several varieties of snakes which easily fit the description of grass snake.
Many North American grass snakes hunt in meadows, coastal areas, deserts, prairies and fields, while others thrive on living pests found in cultivated or landscaped areas. The benefits provided by grass snakes include controlling insects, amphibians, rodents and venomous reptile populations.
Although their markings differ from region to region, the garter snake is the most common species of grass snake, particularly found in home gardens. According to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, this snake can reach up to about 30 inches in length and usually features stripes along the back and sides, in varying colors from yellow to black. Beneficial due to their wide range of prey, garter snakes eat grasshoppers, frogs, toads, salamanders, small birds and mammals.
Smooth Green Snake
This smooth-scaled, bright green snake is a common grass snake, native to predominantly moist grassy areas of the United States. This snake also spends a great deal of its time in trees and low bushes. Maturing at a length of up to 20 inches, the smooth green snake is active during the day, but is hard to spot as its coloring matches the green meadow grass in which it prefers to hunt. When captured, this harmless snake will struggle to escape, but seldom attempts to bite.
The black racer is a long (30- to 60-inch) snake, famous for its speed, although it seldom reaches slightly more than three miles per hour. Primarily found in rural areas, it hunts insects, lizards, snakes, small birds and rodents in brushy areas, fields and lightly wooded forests. It will usually flee when approached, but has been known to follow people for short distances out of sheer curiosity, according to The University of Massachusetts Extension. Although non-venomous, it will not hesitate to bite if cornered.
Brown snakes are small, reaching only slightly more than a foot in length, and can vary in color from yellow, red to gray-brown. They usually have a lighter stripe with a dark border down the back and sides. These snakes hibernate, often in groups, in rock crevices; in the abandoned burrows of rodents and other small animals; and in hollow logs. They emerge in spring and can give birth to up to 20 live young through July and August. Most often found in grassy residential areas during the day, they eat worms, slugs, spiders, small fish and frogs. Brown snakes rarely bite, but can release a pungent musk when alarmed.
Scarlet snakes are usually small and slender, reaching a length of up to 20 inches, with back patterns of alternating black, white or yellow, and red rings. They can usually be found sheltering under rocks, leaves, logs or boards. These harmless snakes are often mistaken for the venomous coral snake and the harmless scarlet kingsnake. The University of Georgia Extension reports they are native to grassy coastal areas from New Jersey through Florida, and west as far as Oklahoma. The rhyme, "red-touch-black, venom-lack; red-touch-yellow kill a fellow," is often used to identify these snakes. Scarlet snakes rarely bite when picked up and are often kept as pets.
Ringneck snakes can grow to a length of about 15 inches and are grayish-colored with a yellow, orange or red band around the back of the neck, and a solid colored underside. This snake is found in grassy mountainous and coastal areas from Maine to Florida, across the southwest desert and along most of the Pacific coast. Although harmless to humans, ringneck snakes use weak venom in their saliva to subdue small prey, including worms, lizards, salamanders and other small snakes.